Environmentalists readying for legal battle to stop construction

Road through national park

by Ifham Nizam

Leading environmental organizations are now in the process of filing a writ application seeking an order to prevent the Wildlife Department, Road Development Authority and others from continuing with the construction of a road through the Maduru Oya National Park.    

The Environment Foundation Limited, Wildlife Nature Protection Society, Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) and other environmental groups have already asked the relevant authorities to stop the ongoing construction in the Park, which is home to large number of endemic species.

The Island learns that despite the opposition from the Wildlife Department, construction work is in progress in an area where hundreds of elephants roam.  

Environmentalists allege that the construction of a road through the National Park has violated the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPOA) Amendment Act No: 22 of 2009. The main objective of constructing the road was to benefit politicians who were putting up tourist hotels in the Eastern Province, as it would provide a short cut from Polonnaruwa, environmentalists said.

ECT Director Sajeewa Chamikara told The Island yesterday that they were waiting for the response of the relevant authorities responsible for the construction of the road.

He said that despite claims that the road had to be constructed for the benefit of the people in the East to travel to Polonnaruwa easily, the aim of the project was to provide easy access for tourists to go to the East coast from Polonnaruwa as hotel projects were now coming up in the East.

He said the environmentalists would do everything possible to prevent the Maduru Oya National Park from being divided into two by the Maha Oya-Aralaganwila road.

He asked how the Department of Wildlife Conservation was going to take action against those who enter the park illegally in the future with a road running through the reserve.

"Under the FFPO, only a person who has obtained written approval from the Park Warden can enter the park. If the government is openly quashing the DWC directives and since they are now helpless to take any action against the relevant authorities who ignored the objections how can the DWC then take action against those who carry out illegal activities within the park? Under the FFPO it is also prohibited to destroy wildlife areas and to construct roads within the park. Howeverm the RDA had not only violated the FFPO but had also shown disregard for the laws of the country," he alleged.

Despite repeated attempts, newly appointed Wildlife Minister Wijithamuni de Zoysa could not be contacted for comment.

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